Gluten Free Madrid: Sana Locura Bakery & Other Gluten Free Tips

Ever since the mini Ds were born my opportunities for scoping out gluten free finds have been mostly fleeting moments snatched between running an errand or my day job. The days of wandering around on weekend city breaks seeking out thee best local gluten free finds have been replaced with the demands of 2 three year olds who mostly want to find the nearest playground.

So when I realised that I’d booked a hotel in Madrid on the same street as a 100% gluten free bakery (unintentionally, honest!), I was feeling hopeful I’d get to take a look. As it turned out, I got to visit not just one, but two gluten free bakeries during our trip to Madrid…

The Sana Locura 100% gluten free bakery is located on Calle del Gral Oraá, 49, 28006 Madrid. Note this is not in the centre of Madrid. However if you’re staying in the upmarket Salamanca district, you can easily walk to it.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

Sana Locura has a number of tables so you can eat in or take out as we did.

We visited in the late afternoon and I was impressed to see many items available.

This is a 100% gluten free bakery. Their website says 95% of their items are also lactose free.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

Just look at the patisserie above, so beautiful.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

There were many celebration cakes available to buy.

And this epic shoe cake, how fun!

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

The staff member I spoke to didn’t speak any English and my Spanish is a little limited. I asked which items contained nuts and many of the cakes, patisserie did. However, I suspect this was lost a bit in translation but I couldn’t risk it so I stuck to items which did not contain nuts.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

A baguette which was the best I’ve ever had fresh, so light yet crispy on the outside. Sadly they’d run out of “beauty bread”.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

A croissant. As far as I know no gluten free bakery in Paris is doing a freshly baked gluten free croissants so this was a major treat. It was denser than a regular croissant but nonetheless was filled with layers just as you’d expect. It was really very good. And if return to Sana Locura just to buy these alone.

I also bought a doughnut. Some “squiggle biscuits” for my daughter (which she talked about all weekend) and Mr D had a flaky tart with cherry on top which he pronounced as excellent.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

Opening hours: Please make sure you check the website here. At the time of posting this blog, the bakery closes for a couple of hours in the afternoon and are not open on Mondays
Cost: €6 (yes six Euros!) for all of the above.
Would I come back? Absolutely. There were plenty of tables to eat in. However, it would be a great place to visit in the morning to pick up a picnic for the day ahead.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

More tips for gluten free Madrid:

  • Celicioso has a 100% gluten free bakeries in Madrid. I bought some alfajores (a shortbread like biscuit) filled with dulce de leche here and they were so good! Again there was plenty of seating here if you wanted to eat in.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

  • The Bagaray restaurant in Madrid Zoo offers a gluten free menu (I didn’t eat here)

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

  • We stayed at the Barcelo Emperatriz which is a short walk from the Sana Locura bakery. This 5 star hotel was wonderful for gluten free food, both in the breakfast and in the evening for dinner. The bar also stocked gluten free beer. You can see some images on my Instagram page.
  • Around the corner (literally) from our hotel was the fantastic Jose Luis where we enjoyed delicious pinchos. The anchovies here were the juiciest and fullest flavour I’ve ever eaten and frankly I’d return for their black truffle tortilla alone. This is not a gluten free restaurant but many of the Spanish pinchos plates are naturally gluten free and the staff were able to explain what I could eat.

Gluten free Jose Luis

  • A really good resource for finding gluten free restaurants in Madrid is the Celiaquitos blog.

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Gluten free bakery Madrid

Went – Ate – Loved: April 2017

Went
….in to hospital to have all 4 of my wisdom teeth taken out under general anaesthetic. The recovery has been long, slow, painful and complicated. On the upside the medications I was put on to control the pain knocked me out and I spent several days sleeping, something I haven’t done for quite some time!

Gluten free hospital meal

In fact this wasn’t the only hospital trip of the month. Early in April my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to substance unknown. She has no known allergies and this has never happened to her before. We’d initially thought it was a nettle sting as she’d been playing over on the Common that afternoon and initially the rash was small so I’d picked up some anti histamine on the way home. However, by the time I got home from work it appeared the reaction was getting worse; her whole body was covered in hives and her lips and tongue were swelling. I called 111 for advice on whether to give the anti histamine immediately or seek further medical assistance. but it was decided an ambulance would be sent for her. The paramedics gave the anti histamine which worked a treat and after a few hours in A&E we were discharged with instructions to take her to the hospital allergy clinic.

We were very lucky to get an appointment the following week with an excellent paediatric allergy consultant for further investigation. It was such a mystery as she hadn’t eaten anything new or different that day.

The consultant had told us before performing her skin prick tests that he suspected it was not food / pollen / dust etc related. He was right – they all came back negative. What a relief!

So what caused it? The consultant explained that sometimes the body can have an immune response to a virus. She’d had the norovirus the previous week so it would seem that was the cause.

I had no idea before this episode that this could even happen or result in such a severe allergic reaction. Every medical professional who saw her that night had thought it was food allergy related.

Another reminder to always take qualified medical advice if you suspect your child or you have an allergy. And don’t remove anything from their/your diet unless a medical professional advises you to do this and supervises the progress.

By the end of the month my itchy feet had contracted a bad case of cabin fever. This led to one of the most random travel days I’ve had in a while when I had to cancel not one, but two flights, within the space of an hour. The first flight had been for 3 nights in Madrid which I’d booked the previous week using air miles. Having checked the weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend, it turned out that the rain in Spain falls mainly in Madrid. Not fancying the prospect of finding 3 days of activities in Madrid which would see the twingos spend most of it either inside or in a buggy, under a rain cover, we were able to cancel the flights for minimal cost. The hotel and Heathrow parking costs were also fully refundable – it pays sometimes to take the refundable option.

This left us with no plans for the Bank holiday. Another Avios redemption search found flights to Hamburg, a city I’ve never visited but have always been interested to explore. Mr D was in charge of booking the flights. When I saw they were booked and in my BA app I noticed he’d accidentally booked the return for the same day as the outward flight. Cue phone call number two to BA! Unfortunately there was no availability on the return date we wanted from Hamburg so these flights were also cancelled and Hamburg will have to wait…

Ate
A lot of soup and frozen yoghurt. And more than a few choc ices.

Loved
I don’t know if this is true for all parents but one of the first things parents of very young twins ask each when they first meet is when exactly will things get easier? When you’re exhausted to a level you never knew could possibly exist, it’s important to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Sometime? Maybe? Please?

Well, April 2017 when the twins were 3 years and 9 months old seems to be a breakthrough. Mr D managed to read his subscription of the Economist sitting in the garden in the sunshine during the week it was mailed to him. I replied to emails (good), did a lot of internet shopping (less good) and searched for weekend break destinations (exciting) all in daylight hours! The way things are going, I may actually buy myself a magazine and read it while the kids play. I’d better not push my luck by attempting to read a whole book just yet…

When having twins pays off - and girl power

              When having twins pays off

April was also primary school decision day. This has been a major stress in our lives since we bought our house and discovered that, thanks to the tiny school catchment areas where we live, we had been outside of catchment for any of the local state schools in that year. So we were thrilled when the kids received offers to our first choice school.  Even if I think at 4 years & 5 weeks old when they start in Reception that it’s too young, at least they’re going to a school we like.

Since my recovery took a while from the anaesthetic, I managed to keep up with blog posts. I enjoyed these posts in April in particular:

I am always more than a little bit in awe of both Carly’s photography skills and her baking ability. I loved this post in which she’s shared her best free from baking recipes:

My go-to free from recipes for cakes & biscuits

I love this post on eating gluten free in Paris by Lisa who lives in Paris and shares her gluten free recipes as well as her sans gluten finds in France.

We’re off to Milan in June and this trip will be with Mr D’s parents. I’ve been to Milan a number of times before but this post is a good reminder on what to see and more specifically eat and drink in Milan!

And finally, a post which really made me think. Rachel has been documenting her very recent emigration to Australia. Having lived abroad myself (in Russia) I found this post on expat stories shared by Rachel’s friends fascinating and I agreed with so many of the points raised, especially the reverse culture shock I experienced when I came back to live in London.

Gluten Free Spain: Gino’s

Readers of this blog in the UK will be familiar with our Italian chains offering gluten free meals such as Pizza Express, Carluccio’s, Ask, and Prezzo. Whenever I visit a city in the UK I’m unfamiliar with, I know that these chains can offer a good, reliable gluten free menu, should I not find somewhere local to eat.

On our recent trip to Valencia, I discovered that there is an equivalent Italian restaurant chain in Spain.

I think most people will agree they favour an independent restaurant over a chain, however when you are a diner with an allergy – and particularly the parent of a child with dietary restrictions – it’s very reassuring to visit chain restaurants. Why? They have standardised menus and ingredients which means you know what’s on offer. Their websites are regularly updated and you can plan eating there in advance. Many chain restaurants have cross contamination measures which reduce the risk of error in food preparation. Chain restaurants are also frequently accredited with national bodies supporting Coeliacs, as Pizza Express is with Coeliac UK, for example.

In truth we stumbled into Gino’s in Valencia not knowing anything about this restaurant. We had been walking a long way (kids were thankfully in the buggy) but nonetheless they were getting pretty hangry as it was long past their lunchtime. In Spain, McDonald’s offers gluten free buns with their burgers and I’d spotted the golden arches from some distance away. When we arrived, I noticed there was an Italian next door and out of interest quickly scanned the menu where I spotted they had gluten free options. I like the occasional gluten free McDonald’s when I’m travelling in Europe but I knew everyone would prefer pasta for lunch.

We went in and I was presented with the gluten free menu.

Gluten free Spain, Gino's

I later found out that Gino’s Restaurants are accredited with FACE, the Federation of Coeliac Associations of Spain.

It’s true that it’s the most massive of menus, but after walking for miles already that day (and with more walking mileage planned), I was happy to have pasta.

Even if it wasn’t the most extensive menu, there was still pasta, pizza and even a couple of types of gluten free beer.

What I liked about Gino’s is that they had a gluten free menu for kids and this was including in the regular menu, meaning kids would be treated the same whether gluten free or not.

Gluten free Spain, Gino's

The portion size of my spaghetti bolognese was also good.

Gluten free Spain, Gino's

I was also brought my own pot of Parmesan cheese, to avoid cross contamination with the gluten-eaters’ Parmesan.

Gluten free Spain, Gino's

I ordered some gluten free garlic bread, just because I could. My kids ate as much of this as I did.

Gluten free Spain, Gino's

I wasn’t in the mood for dessert, but had I been then the gluten free tiramisu would have been my choice.

Is this the best (gluten free) food in Spain? No. But if you – or your child/ren – need to find somewhere to eat in Spain offering both adult and children’s gluten free meals, and which is accredited by the Spanish Coeliac associations, then it’s worth remembering Gino’s can offer this.

Location: Multiple restaurants in 18 cities around Spain including Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and Seville
Website
Cost: Excellent value. Under EUR 50 for 4 people (2 adult mains plus one side and 2 kids meals) including drinks. And look at the great price of a gluten free beer, EUR 2.55!
Would I come back?: Si! I’m off to Madrid and will have Gino’s as a backup plan in case I need to be saved from a gluten free dining fate worse than McDonald’s.

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Gluten free restaurant Spain

Gluten Free Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel, London

Me and afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel are well acquainted. I’ve been there countless times over the years. I first started going there, long before diagnosis, with an Australian friend. We loved a Saturday catch up together over delicious cakes and tea in the beautiful dark wood panelled English Tea room. Chatting away while deeply sunk into winged back arm chairs in front of a fireplace, cosseted against the wet, cold, rainy London winter is a memory of London I’ll long treasure.

Despite a mix up on one occasion when we served gluten-full, not gluten free sandwiches (always remain vigilant even when chatting too much!), whenever I’ve been asked where to go in London for gluten free afternoon tea, it’s always Brown’s Hotel that I’d recommend.

So I thought that it’s probably about time to write an updated version of my post from 2011 (er, wow, so long ago?!) based on the afternoon tea I enjoyed at Brown’s hotel in March 2017.

My dining companions on this occasion were Carly and Kelly.

They are both Coeliac so required the gluten free afternoon tea whilst mine also needed to be nut free as well as gluten free.

The regular, Traditional Afternoon Tea menu:

We were served the same selection of gluten free sandwiches as those listed on the Traditional menu, but on super soft gluten free bread.

Refills of sandwiches are offered and we partook. I know it’s weird, but I truly love the sandwiches at afternoon tea more than the cakes.

We were then served scones, with raisins, and strawberry jam and clotted cream. Look at this mighty gluten free scone!

A few crumbs on slicing but the scones were lovely and soft.

A nut free and gluten free afternoon tea seems to result in a higher than expected quota of mousse based sweet options for me. I honestly don’t mind so much – I’m definitely more of a sandwiches and scones kind of girl, than cake. My selection of gluten free and nut free cakes are on the bottom plate in the photo below:

If you’re gluten free and planning to visit Brown’s Hotel, you should be aware that a new menu has been introduced. The Tea-Tox afternoon tea has been devised by “nutritionist” Madeleine Shaw and was launched in January 2017. The menu for the Tea-Tox is:

Carly and Kelly had ordered the Traditional afternoon tea to be served gluten free. And whilst they were served gluten free sandwiches and scones, they were served the “cake” selection from the Tea-Tox afternoon tea. I don’t know if this was an error, although the waiter seemed a little taken aback when we pointed out that the classic (i.e., sugar-full) version had been ordered, so perhaps not an error.

We asked the waiter if Carly and Kelly could have the gluten / nut free version I’d enjoyed and they were served the same selection as I’d received:

Gluten and Nut Free Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel, London

In summary, if you’re looking for a gluten free afternoon tea offering raw brownies and less refined sugar, Brown’s Hotel can offer you this as an afternoon tea.

However, if you’re looking for a delicious gluten free (and nut free) afternoon tea in the elegant, classic English Tea Room within one of London’s most luxurious hotels, Brown’s Hotel can offer you this too. But I’d recommend clarifying at the time of booking what you will be served if you expecting to receive a regular selection of sugary cakes within your afternoon tea.

Raw fruit bars and chocolate dipped bananas do not make a gluten free afternoon tea in my view!

Location: Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BP

Website: Brown’s Hotel, London

Cost: Traditional and Tea-Tox Afternoon Teas are priced at £55 / person, or £65 with a glass of champagne. Service charge is added on top of this.

Would I come back?: Much as I’ve loved my afternoon teas here (and especially the company I’ve enjoyed it with!), I felt this time it was lacking in the something special I’ve enjoyed here in the past. I can’t put my finger on it….service was perhaps not up to usual scratch, perhaps the addition of the Tea-Tox (and potential for confusion to those with a medical reason not to consume gluten, rather than for lifestyle reasons) or maybe it’s that I’ve had my head truly turned by the gluten free afternoon tea I enjoyed at Claridges last Autumn. I’m sure I’ll be back, but perhaps I’ll be trying the afternoon teas at the Dorchester or the Langham hotels first.

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Looking for other gluten free afternoon tea options? Click on the following links to read my reviews on gluten free afternoon teas at Claridges Hotel, Fortnum and Mason, Sanderson Hotel.

Went – Ate – Loved: March 2017

Went

March was a quiet month for international travel. Having already taken 9 flights in the first 2 months of the year, I can’t say I was too unhappy about having a more relaxed month.

If I had to describe March in one word it would be: Sickness. And on top of this I had to struggle through the sickness whilst still working on an intense project.  I spent half the month suffering with a throat infection and then just I recovered from that, the whole house went down like dominoes with the Norovirus. The sickness of March will not be missed. But in the end I was glad we didn’t have any trips planned as no one was completely well at any point in the month.

Ate

March, however, did treat me to a number of gluten free eating highlights!

At the start of March I attended a supper club hosted by the herb and spice producers, Schwartz, at a private members club in Soho. The event celebrated the launch of Schwartz’s new gluten free herb and spice mix. I was lucky to be invited to an exclusive meet before the main event in which we were introduced to  representatives of Schwartz who’ve been working for 2 years to develop the mixes.

I always find these types of events utterly fascinating. Schwartz have put some real effort into producing these mixes. This includes changing supplier for cumin and setting up a dedicated production line at the factory to ensure the herbs and spices are gluten free. We were treated to a supper of huge platters of food which had been made with the various mixes.

Gluten free Schwartz mixes

The standouts for me were the blow your head off peppercorn sauce and the very versatile gluten free cheese sauce, both of which I’ll be buying.

Did you know Schwartz have been producing herbs and spices since 1887? Nope, me neither!

After attending another lecture as part of the Royal Academy’s Russian Revolution series, we went to Burger & Lobster for dinner. Not sure how I’ve not been here before!

Gluten free at Burger & Lobster

No lobster will ever top the taste of the soft shell lobster I enjoyed sitting on a rickety wooden deck in Maine on a foggy night, but this meal was tasty nonetheless.

March also saw a lovely afternoon tea date at Brown’s hotel with Carly & Kelly.

Gluten free afternoon tea Brown's Hotel

I’ve posted previously on gluten free afternoon tea at Brown’s hotel but since the menu has changed, it’s time to refresh that one so it’ll be on the blog soon.

Loved

At the end of March I attended the presentation to the winners in the annual Free From Food Awards. You can read about my favourite finds and who won in this post.

Blog posts I’ve loved this month have been:

Matthew has been sharing his highlights from a road trip around California. I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts as I’ve done a similar road trip and it’s one I’d like to take the twins on, but perhaps not right now.

This blog post to the best finds in Milan (of which there are many!) is well timed for me as we’ll be heading back there in June and I’m very much looking forward to it. The post is in Italian but you can use Google Translate. I’ve enjoyed some of my favourite gluten free pizzas in Milan and I hope to go back to Be Bop where they paired wine with my pizza last time!

I really enjoy reading how visitors from other parts of the world enjoy their time in the UK and I absolutely loved Adina’s post on her trip to Scotland and the Lake District. There are some beautiful photos in this post so I highly recommend you settle down with a cup of tea and have a read! I only wish she’d managed to visit Snowdonia on this trip – I think she’d love it!

Finally, this post on gluten free dining on The Big Island of Hawaii. Another place I’ve visited previously but I would love to go back. And perhaps even persuade my sister who lives in Tokyo to meet us there…..I’m guessing that might not be too much of a hard sell…!